After missing two presentable opportunities against Manchester United, Giroud exacerbated a bad week by commenting on press stories about his private life on social media shortly before the FA Cup tie with Liverpool on Feb. 16. His comments fed the media fire around the story. Subsequently, Giroud was left out for both the Liverpool match and the Champions League tie with Bayern Munich three days later.
Although Arsene Wenger told Arsenal.com that the decision to drop him was not related to the scandal, the fact he opted for the untested Yaya Sanogo ahead of an experienced international suggests that Giroud has been the subject of some form of internal discipline. The selection did not make sense from a strategic point of view, so other factors must have been at play.
Now, Giroud has to regain the faith and admiration of Wenger and Arsenal fans. It’s the least he can do to balance out the support they have given him.
Prior to joining Arsenal in 2012, Giroud was a Ligue 1 champion with Montpellier. However, he was far from a household name. Wenger showed enormous faith to choose Giroud as the replacement for the departing Robin van Persie. That faith was sorely tested in Giroud’s early days at the club. He didn’t score his first Arsenal goal until late September, but Wenger’s belief remained consistent.
Wenger’s loyalty was rewarded. Giroud finished his first season with 17 goals. However, doubts persisted about his capacity to fire Arsenal back to glory. For all his gifts, Giroud is not in the elite class of strikers.
Amid the criticism from pundits, Wenger had stood by Giroud. In the summer of 2013 and January 2014, he had the opportunity to recruit a striker to replace his fellow Frenchman. Nevertheless, Arsenal’s No. 12 remains their undisputed No. 9. He has started 24 of their 26 Premier League games this season.
This Saturday against Sunderland, he is likely to start again. Against Bayern, Sanogo ran himself into the ground. Even his youthful effervescence was significantly diminished by the ordeal of facing Bayern as a lone front man.
In his stead, Giroud will return to the side. Wenger will expect the Frenchman to be fresh and highly motivated. He told Arsenal’s official Twitter account that his absence against Munich was in part explained by a “refreshment plan.”
Giroud still has a massive role to play in Arsenal’s season. For all of Sanogo’s promise, he can’t yet be relied on to produce on a regular basis in the Premier League. Giroud’s experience ensures he will remain Arsenal’s first choice—until the summer at least.
This is a difficult period for Giroud. However, he is a strong character. If he can find the resolve to bounce back and give his all, it could reinforce his status as Arsenal’s leading striker. Given the support the club has offered him over the last two years, it’s his duty to fight for the cause.